Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Challenging Gender Roles: Agnodice, Hyginus, Fabulae CXIX

An adapted version of this text with comprehension questions is available HERE

Antiqui quia obstetrices non habuerunt, unde mulieres verecundia ductae interierant (nam Athenienses caverant, ne quis servus aut femina artem medicinam disceret) Agnodice quaedam puella virgo concupivit medicinam discere. Quae cum concupisset, demptis capillis habitu virili se Hierophilo cuidam tradidit in disciplinam. Quae cum artem didicisset et feminam laborantem audisset ab inferiore parte, veniebat ad eam. Quae cum credere se noluisset existimans virum esse illa tunica sublata ostendebat se feminam esse: et ita eas curabat. Quod cum vidissent medici se ad feminas non admitti Agnodicem accusare coeperunt, quod dicerent eum glabrum esse et corruptorem earum et illas simulare imbecilitatem. Quod cum Areopagitae consedissent Agnodicem damnare coeperunt. Quibus Agnodice tunicam allevavit et se ostendit feminam esse. Et validius medici accusare coeperunt. Quare tum feminae principes ad iudicium convenerunt et dixerunt: vos coniuges estis, sed hostes, quia quae salutem  invenit eam damnatis. Tunc Athenienses legem emendaverunt ut ingenuae artem medicinam discerent.

--Hyginus, Fabulae CXCIX
In ancient times, they did not have midwives, and so women were dying because of their modesty (for Athenians did not allow slaves or women to learn the art of medicine).
A certain young lady, Agnodice, desired to learn medicine. Since she truly had it in her heart to learn, she shaved her head, dressed in men's clothing, and learned medicine under the tutelage of Hierophilus. Once she had learned what she needed to, she would visit women who were in labor.
Since these women did not want to be treated by her because they thought that she was a man, she would lift up her tunic and show them that she was a woman; then the patient would allow her to help.
When doctors saw that they were no longer sought by women, they began to attack Agnodice, saying that he was a pervert and a corruptor of women, and accused her patients of faking their illnesses to spend time with him.
They took Agnodice to trial, during which she lifted her dress and proved that she was a woman. And when the doctors began to double down, continuing to attack her, the top women of the town entered the court and declared: "You men are not our husbands, but our enemy, because you have condemned the one person who has discovered a way for us to be safe." Then the Athenians modified the law, and allowed free-born women to learn the art of medicine.

Name: Gaius Julius Hyginus
Date: 64 BCE – 17 CE
Works: Fabulae*
               De Astronomica

REGION 1 / 4*
Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans

Hyginus was a freedman of the Roman emperor Augustus who was in charge of the Imperial library on the Palatine Hill in Rome. His work, the Fabulae, are a sourcebook for Greek and Roman myths. Although there is quite a bit of overlap between his writings and his contemporary and friend Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Hyginus’ works are much more succinct.
Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE

* There is evidence that Hyginus was originally from Alexandria, Egypt (Suetonius, de Gramm. 20)